Walter Scott, the 50-year-old black man who was fatally shot in the back by a white police officer, was buried Saturday by family and friends who called for broad changes in how police deal with powerless people of all backgrounds.
Pastor George Hamilton told the congregation that Scott died “as a result of overt racism … hatred in that officer’s heart.”
“This particular officer was a disgrace, but we will not indict the department for the act of one racist,” he said.
“We can’t bring Walter back, but we certainly want justice to be done,” he said.
In brief remarks to reporters after the service, three attorneys for the family said the Scotts hoped to use the tragedy to make substantive changes in how the police and people of all backgrounds interact.
“We are not going to let this boil down to a racial issue, it is bigger than that — it is a human issue,” said attorney Chris Stewart.
“The bigger picture is the recognition that this epidemic must stop, powerless people being taken advantage of must stop,” he said.
Describing the Scott family as “God-centered,” he said they do not support any violent protests but wanted to use the tragic incident to “change the way we look at each other.”
“If that is what Walter Scott died to prove, then the family is just fine with that because his legacy will live on through this family,” Stewart said.
He said the family was supportive of all groups pressing for change, but was adamantly opposed to violent protests or confrontation to press their issues.
“Stewart said that violence “makes office evenmore guaded and agitated — we have tried that route, that doesn’t do anything.”
In a highly public gesture by North Charleston city officials, the hearse carrying Scott’s body was accompanied by a police escort of two officers on motorcycles.
Despite the intense national media attention on the case, the Scott family barred cameras from the 90-minute service, which was delayed because of the crowd pressing to get in. At least 200 people were not able to get into the church, which can accommodate only about 400 people.
Among those attending were U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and U.S. Reps. Jim Clyburn, a Democrat, and Mark Sanford, a Republican.
At one point, referring to the bystander who videotaped the shooting of Scott, Hamilton told the mourners, “Keep your phone handy, keep your charge up. You never know when you need to be around (to film).”
A program handed out for the funeral service contained a tribute from Scott’s parents.
“No words we write could ever say how sad and empty we feel today,” it said. “The angels came for you much sooner than we planned, we’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and we’ll try to understand.”
Scott, a 50-year-old forklift operator, was killed last Saturday after running from his car following a traffic stop by police officer Michael Slager, 33. Slager was fired and is jailed on murder charges.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said he and North Charleston police Chief Eddie Driggers decided not to attend Saturday’s funeral, which was open to the public, to avoid creating a distraction for the family in their time of grief. Both, however, planned to attend a memorial church service Sunday in North Charleston where civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to speak.
Civil rights activists, who have mounted marches and protests to try to pressure the police department into more accountability, agreed to suspend their activities during the funeral at W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center. A prayer vigil was planned later Saturday at the site of the shooting.
A steady stream of mourners attended a wake Friday for Scott, whose open casket was adorned by a Dallas Cowboys sign and draped in an American flag.
The incident, in which Slager fired eight shots at Scott, hitting him five times as he ran off, was captured on video by a bystander, sparking a nationwide outcry about charges of excessive use of force by police.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Doug Stanglin